To inform entertain and excite my kids, Jamie, Patrick, Aaron & Sarah Middleburgh, our family and friends.about me
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My maternal grandfather enlisted into the 14th Hussars in 1905 , served in India , was on the Western Front during WWI and according to my mother went to Cananda for a couple of years after leaving the army.
The objective was to see if I could find out anything more about his military service and trip to Canada (and to successfully visit the Archives!!)
The search starts with The Medal Rolls (WO329). These can be accessed on line (for a fee) or on microfiche on site (free/30p for print ). They are effectively the card indexes for every soldier who served in WWI listing Medals awarded and from these you can identify which regiment(s) were served in and get a pointer to the actual rolls in which medal entitlements were recorded. I got copy of my grandfathers card (see above) and photographs of the actual roll entries.
Although awarded the Mons Star (with Clap and Rose) at the time my grandfather he did not collect it until 28/10/1938. I can only assume that with world war II imminent, he got patriotic and wanted all his medals. (well the Nazis had just got Sudenland and Chamberlain had just got his worthless piece of paper) See the entry with the addition in blue ink. The images in this and previous post if saved and viewed on PC are quite readable
The above roll shows the award for Victory and British War medals and the note indicates when my grandfather left the army.
I then tried the Burnt Records (WO363 ) These are on microfiche: I have my grandfathers copy of his discharge papers which only state when he joined up, medals recieved, length service, Regiments and date of discharge etc (basically same as the Medal Roll) so I was looking for full service records or at least something more than I already had. Unfortuantely during WW2 lots of records were destroyed by fire . The burnt records are being recovered. Apparently they had just finished surnames beginning with "H" Unfortuately my grandfathers are not amongst them which means unless they were misfilled and turn up in the future they are gone. I may revisit just to confirm
I then sampled the War Diaries (WO95) which for the most part are not online. In hindsight I should have I should have consulted the contents list and Index to Battalions etc is in the Reference Room to work out which diaries were most relevant to my grandfathers unit. As it was I got stuck into the diaries for the 20th Hussars which was the Regiment my grandfather initially joined at the Front:I didn't follow up on those for the Machine Gun Corp.
The 20th Hussars was the sister regiment of the 14th which was in India. It was the rearguard that covered the retreat of the British Expeditionary Force when they was forced back in 1914 from Belgium. Evidently replacements for soldiers killed were drawn from the reserves which included soldiers from the 14 Hussars from which 63 men and horses joined on September 17 1914 and more followed later including my grandfather. There is a reference to unmamed casualties amongst men from the 14 Hussars in October (before my grandfather was in theatre - he only just got to the front in time to be entitled to his Mons Star). In January 1915 a lieutenant from the 14 hussars was mentioned by name - He was Court Marshalled and cashiered for drunkenness.My grandfather is not mentioned in 20th hussars diaries nor that he was transfered to the Machine Gun Corp
The War diaries were written mostly in pencil on exercise book paper and whilst the initial enteries contained details and names, as the war progressed, the entries simplified and distilled into the daily number killed and on sick parade. (no names). Although I found them profoundly 'bleak'I felt privleged and humbled to have had the opportunity to read them.
One memorable entry refered to the fact that the men had a bath that day; On that day in 1917 the most important thing recordered was not whether the military campaign or the geopolitical cause it supported had been progressed or thwarted but the fact that the men had had a bath.The humanity of it put the war in context.
Having basically run out of WW1 records which I'd found, I then tried the General Monthly Returns of the Army (WO73): I explained a bit about my quest to one of the staff at help desk and asked whether I could find out more about where my grandfather served BEFORE WW1; he suggested it might be worth consulting these records which as I understand it (without looking at them) are accounting records ie listing by regiment where and how many soldiers where stationed etc. Since I didn't have time to check all these out (there were a lot of records to search through) they are on next years to do list. Fortunately my new readers card doesn't expire until 2011
Finally the guy at the help desk suggested that it might be worth checking BOT Passenger lists(BT27) for ships outbound from UK to see if my grandfather showed up. We couldn't find anything on ships to India but a similar search for ships going to canada threw up a potential match. My mother insists that he went to Canada after the war. The record found could be pausible if after he was discharged from the army he married and got my grandmother pregnant and THEN went to canada. As with all these things there are some ambiguities in the record and it may refer to someone else.
I did a provisional search on the Canandian National Archives site to identify the corresponding entry records and I am going to follow the lead up and see if I can clarify the missing canada years - watch this space|